Advances in relieving pain

Dentistry, like everything else, has changed over the years.

  • Feb. 8, 2011 2:00 p.m.

Dentistry, like everything else, has changed over the years.

In days gone by, mercury-metal fillings and belt driven handpieces/drills were standard of care and indeed leading edge technologies.

In today’s world, a trip to the dentist is met with the offer of a latte and followed up with lasers for cavity detection as well as specialized lights for oral cancer detection.

It’s true, dentistry has never been more painless or spa-like, but those are not the only changes in the field.

In 1969, at the age of 67, Dr. Bernard Jankelson began research that lead to electronic devices to relax the musculature as well as instruments to measure muscle activity/status in jaw action.

He described his work as a study of “maladjustments in the relationship of the jaw to the skull which cause sustained muscle tension.”

It was his belief and observation that jaw movement malfunctions were are the root of many health problems including everything from headaches to insomnia.

Over the ensuing decades this philosophy in dentistry has been honed and improved to now include very sophisticated and exact computerized equipment to aid in diagnosis and delivery of treatment. What Dr. Jankelson gave birth to is what we know today as Nuromuscular Dentistry (NMD).

NMD considers multiple factors—the temporomandibular joints, the muscles of mastication/chewing, the teeth, and the central nervous system or nerves.

Neuromuscular dentists understand that there is a complex relationship between all of these structures.

Further, they know that the same laws that apply to all of the body’s musculoskeletal systems also apply to the area of jaw, head and neck.

Knowing these laws and what the correct relationships should look like allows a neuromuscular dentist to adjust/correct the system.

The computerized equipment that we use has added much objective and verifiable data to this process.

Traditional dentistry, for comparative purposes, tends to focus primarily on the teeth with minimal if any consideration for the relationship with the other tissues/structures.

So what does this all mean for you, the patient?

Misalignment of the jaw and tension in the system will lead to breakdown somewhere.

The most common physiologic/muscle problems to result are headaches, jaw pain, facial pain, or neck, shoulder, and back pain.

Dentally the issues include cracked, worn and breaking teeth, gum recession, bone loss, notching of the teeth, shortened lifespan of dentistry, and extra jawbone growth.

Neural (nerve based) problems include tinnitus/ringing in the ears, vertigo, or tingling down your arms and into your fingertips.

Joint related outcomes include clicking and popping sounds in the jaw joints, remodeling of the joints, and degeneration of the joints.

No matter where you look in this list (and there are more conditions that arise from these jaw misalignments) you find an undesirable condition.

It should also be noted that these are progressive issues meaning that they will most likely worsen if not treated (no intervention).

Do not despair. A neuromuscular dentist can treat these conditions.

After examining a patient to determine the existence of a neuromuscular imbalance he or she will then determine the optimal relationship of the jaws by measuring the most relaxed and least stressed position of the head and neck muscles.

The lower jaw is then repositioned and stabilized there to maintain that corrected or improved physiology.

This stabilized, physiologically correct position is verified over time using muscle EMGs (electro-myography) and computerized jaw tracking —the same technologies that aid in finding the correct bite.

Once stability is verified the malocclusion or improper fit of the teeth is relatively easy to treat.

Treatment options would include adjusting the bite, orthotics/appliances, orthodontics/braces, or restoring the teeth to their correct positions.

The benefits of NMD for patients are many, including decreased/eliminated pain, stabilized bone and gum tissues, longer lasting dentistry, longer lasting natural teeth, and better overall health to name but a few.

Dr. Sharnell Muir is an LVI certified dentist with Kelowna Dentistry By Design, 100-2033 Gordon Dr.


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